We've been given some more news in regards to ROH protocol. Talent takes a pre-travel test before heading to tapings, then takes another test there. They're then placed in a bubble for a few days, and tested again prior to wrestling, as well as temperature tests and mask mandates. Before each match, canvasses are changed and wiped down, and the ropes and turnbuckles are cleaned and sanitized. In addition, ROH provides their talent with a per diem to spend while they're in the bubble as well.
Fightful has reported a lot about a late 2019 talent meeting that ROH held. We're told that the meeting came after a lot of negative publicity surrounding Joey Mercury's departure, among other things. Talent were brought in and a staffer had a white board and took down recommendations for improvements. Things from production, aesthetics to even catering were improved as a result of this meeting, and was a big step in increasing morale of the roster.
IMPACT Wrestling returns to filming in Nashville on Monday, March 15 and films for several days. The roster will also return in April for Rebellion and subsequent tapings, in which will feature Kenny Omega. The members of the team that we've spoken to say that they like the nearly-monthly tapings of late as to keep up with the changing landscape of wrestling. There was a huge gap between mid-November to mid-January for tapings before they've resumed monthly.
Hall of Fame
WWE announced that their Hall of Fame class would include 2020 and 2021, which led many to wonder what kind of run time would result. Sources indicated to Fightful this week that the plan as of Molly Holly's HOF announcement was to pre-tape the show in some capacity. It isn't ideal, but something that WWE realizes is probably best for the time being. Before the ceremony was canceled last year, attendance at the Hall of Fame was to be mandatory for talent. Vince McMahon personally became upset in recent years that talent would duck out of the show early, though many of them had early morning media obligations the next day.
Johnny Ace is back at the helm of talent relations in WWE. This left several wrestlers concerned -- at least those that reached out to Fightful. One wrestler indicated Ace's insistence on embracing the "diva" style performers over in-ring acumen during his time there, and were worried that line of thinking would be reflected in his hiring method again. Ace has been out of the Talent Relations role for nine years, and has replaced Mark Carrano. Several current WWE wrestlers told us that Mark Carrano was easy to work with on the surface, but was hard to trust, particularly after the April 2020 releases. Those cuts in general eroded a lot of trust within the company, after several wrestlers were let go who were made long-term promises, and Carrano was said to be a part of that.
Fightful spoke with names backstage at AEW Revolution this weekend, and confirmed the Wrestling Observer Radio report of Kenny Omega being upset about the situation unfolding the way that it did. We're told that the third party rigging crew responsible brushed the situation off and were not very apologetic about the way that things happened, leading to pretty significant heat on them. One wrestler joked with us that they wished the rigging crew would have got that kind of heat during the main event segment instead, and they wouldn't be in this situation.
We've reached out to AEW officials, but haven't got and on the record comment.
Vince McMahon COVID News
Vince McMahon has gotten particular about wrestler safety again in the pandemic. Fightful was told that there was a particular incident of a wrestler or staff member at Disney unmasked weeks back that set Vince McMahon off after he had made it clear he wanted wrestlers taking more precautions as a result of COVID-19 risks. McMahon has sent several messages either directly or indirectly to talent as a result of this, specifically in the days before the Super Bowl in an effort to dissuade wrestlers from attending Super Bowl parties unmasked. There have also been instances of staffers having their responsibilities reduced after photos of them emerged out and about without masks.
Fightful has learned that some long-signed wrestlers will finally be making the trip to the United States to train at the WWE Performance Center. Matty Wahlberg and Steph De Lander were the names, and we've confirmed that international signings that were actually planned ahead of the pandemic will be heading to the States this week.
MLW saw a lot of changes as a result of the pandemic, but it seems like some of them were for the better. Jacob Fatu vs. Alexander Hammerstone in a title vs. title match has been the plan for well over a year, with both men now closing in on two years as MLW World Heavyweight Champion and MLW National Openweight Champion, respectively. The pandemic hit and seemingly put a halt to those plans, but the company is still hoping to do that match whenever they feel comfortable having crowds in attendance.
Fightful learned that the Mads Krugger character was created as a way to pace things along without losing momentum of the two dominant champions, but Krugger was said to have exceeded expectations to the point he became a part of the grander plan.
Fightful spoke to Rhett Titus for a new interview, and he revealed that there were some unusual original return plans for Kenny King years ago. He indicated that King had grown frustrated of the situation in TNA after several weeks of television had to be canned that would have seen him break out, due to the Lucha Underground threats when TNA used a contracted Hernandez. Titus said that King called him up directly and asked if there would be any interest in bringing him back. Titus had been working as "The Romantic Touch" under a mask, and a plan was put forth to bring back Kenny King as "The Gentle Caress" in a similar role. Thankfully, that didn't happen and ANX returned instead.
Rhett Titus told us that during the ROH restart, Jonathan Gresham came to him personally and told him he was hoping to bring Titus into The Foundation. Titus said he was surprised and flattered by the move and jumped at the opportunity. He compared being a part of that group to SCUM, and said there's more similarities than many would believe. He also talked to us about training under Daniel Bryan and said that he wishes he had more maturity about him so he could take in more of the knowledge that was shared.
Wrestling Inc reported that Andrade asked for his WWE release recently. Ringside News also correctly reported that he isn't figured into the creative plans as of right now. Fightful spoke with WWE sources who said they expected this for quite a while, and based on what they heard, it wasn't it an "outburst" or a huge confrontation, but he didn't look happy. They didn't expect Andrade's release to be granted, and said the writing was on the wall about his future when Paul Heyman was removed from power and Andrade's push quickly subsided. Another source pointed to the fact that Andrade wasn't drafted whatsoever in October 2020, and never appeared on camera again as a "major turning point." Vince McMahon had fallen in and out of love at times with the potential of Andrade.